Student Affairs Twitter Resource Guide

Author note: Hello all, this is a repost of a blog that I wrote for the NASPA New Professionals and Graduate Students Knowledge Community. The original posting can be found here: https://www.naspa.org/constituent-groups/posts/student-affairs-twitter-resource-guide

Personally, engaging via Twitter has brought me many opportunities that I may not have found elsewhere, especially through NASPA’s Knowledge Communities. For example, I found the application for the NASPA Region II Board where I now serve as their Director of Recruitment. These national and often association-based opportunities don’t often enter our professors inboxes for mass email forwarding, so it’s important to open oneself to these opportunities via newsletters, association membership emails, and yet again, social media. Additionally, Twitter’s format is perfect for sharing and showcasing the best of an organization and the resources they have to offer so why not tap into those?

I always suggest that #SAgrad folks build their online presence the summer before or during their first semester of graduate studies. Having this extra time while grad work is lessened allows one focus on social media upkeep like creating and updating one’s LinkedIn and verifying their privacy settings on Facebook. However, Twitter has proven to serve as a great branding and learning tool for those in this profession and should be explored as another social media option.

What and Why?

Here are some common reasons for making a Twitter account and some of the things you can do with it:

  • Build and extend your personal and professional brand
  • Stay updated with relevant higher ed news as it’s happening
  • Learn about volunteer and job opportunities in the field
  • Find and share opportunities and/or successes with your networks
  • Connect with like-minded colleagues from campuses across the nation & world
  • Research graduate programs and gain insight into campus cultures
  • Find mentors from all professional levels who can advise on career moves
  • Find solidarity with professionals that have similar identities or interests
  • Engage in spaces to listen and learn from others that are different than oneself

I’ve been lucky and strategic enough to take advantage of all of these benefits as I’ve become more serious about my Twitter game. Here are some examples of tweets that showcase many of these benefits listed above:

A tweet from NEACHO that states "We're going to get started with our NEACHUO Chat on FLSA in ResLife, please introduce yourself with your title and institution. #NEACUHO

A tweet by Mike Lynch that states "#ResLief friends: Do you offer identity-based housing options on your campus? I'd love to connect & chat! #SAchat #SApro #ACUHOI #NEACUHO"

A tweet by Stacy Oliver Sikorski which states "#ACUHOI: I'm writing an article on break housing policies and practices. Willing to chat? Let me know. #reslife #sachat"

A tweet from the Women in Student Affairs Knowledge Community which states "Any #wisakc women looking for a new role in social justice and inclusion? Check this out! #careersearching" It points to a tweet below that offers a role at Michigan State University.

A tweet by Sammie Walker that states "Hoping to start a #blog soon! Any #SAchat or #SAgrad/#SApro folks have tips to share or know resources/tools I should look into? Thanks!"

(Tweets from individual accounts are posted with permission)

I’ve heard some ask why they should embark on this online branding endeavor as the time it may take may not yield what they hope to get out of it. First off, I think it’s important for any person or company who’s hoping to use a social network to understand why they’re using it and how it is used. All social networks are spoken in different languages so my advice is to first observe others using it, which means following friends, peers, and influencers in the field for exposure to this ‘language.’ Start tweeting, using hashtags and emojis incorrectly at first, but you’ll soon get the hang of it!

Getting Started

Build your profile! Be intentional with your profile picture, cover photo and username. Use high quality photos and be sure that username will be one that you use throughout the rest of your social media. Your bio should highlight a mission statement and/or your memberships like where you attend university, your GA, your interests, etc. Other editable spaces are your location, external link, and birthday (which you probably shouldn’t add because of privacy reasons).

An empty Twitter profile
A blank Twitter profile circa 2016

Public vs. Private Account

Which should you have? I think it’s reasonable to have a private account until you feel comfortable with your Twitter presence. You will need to have a public account to engage with the larger community, especially via Twitter chats which I’ll speak to soon. I’ve seen some pros keep their account mainly private and only public for chats but I think overall, you want to work toward having a public profile so that it can be the most effective branding tool.

Tips and Tricks

  • Use the platform regularly! Twitter is a platform where it’s normal and acceptable to post more than once a day. When getting started, it’s important to post and reply at least 3x a week but you’ll want to work to at least once a day, which gets easier as you’re more comfortable and have more people to chat with on the site.
  • Don’t connect your Tweets to Facebook and Instagram! As I mentioned, you can definitely tweet more than once a day but if you connect your Twitter to Facebook, you’re most likely going to be spamming your friend’s feeds. As for Instagram, if you try to add an Instagram post to Twitter, it’ll only show up as a link. If you want to add a picture to Twitter, it’s best to add it directly to that app or use a 3rd party app like https://ifttt.com/ which lets you embed your photo.
  • RTs vs Quoted RTs vs Replying: Which one do I do? Retweeting means sharing a post from another page to yours. Quoting a tweet is a choice you can make while retweeting, which allows you to add a comment over the tweet. Replying is simply adding to the thread of the original post.
  • What if I already have a Twitter but I don’t use it? There are a couple of choices you can make: 1) You can delete your old Twitter and start fresh or 2) Change your settings/username, delete old posts, and still use this account. I’ve seen both be done! I’ve even seen folks who choose to have a private friends-only Twitter and a public professional Twitter. Do what feels right for you!
  • Rethink following who Twitter suggests. Twitter will at first try to have you follow sponsored brands and celebrities that you may not care too much about. I suggest (especially if you’re making a Student Affairs Twitter) you follow colleagues, peers, higher ed institutions, and associations so that suggestions are more related to your interests!
  • Don’t forget – 140 characters or bust! Plain and simple, don’t forget that your character count is small. If making a larger statement, you can reply to your own tweets and create a thread that can be read through.

Who Should I Follow?

 

Common Issues

  • Importance of maintaining professionalism. As you tweet, do not forget that you not only represent yourself but the organizations and institutions that you are a part of as well. If you’re not sure that a tweet will be handled well, it’s best not to tweet it out. On any social media platform, it’s important to balance authenticity with professional and work-appropriate language. Again, I suggest checking out the pages of colleagues and higher ed folk that you admire and are similar to you to see how they get their message across.
  • Useful disclaimers. Many pros have one of these lines in their bio to mitigate issues with conflated personal opinion and institutional values.
    • Tweets are mine.
    • Retweets ≠ endorsements.
    • Views/Tweets/Opinions are my own.
  • Comfort with being followed/following students. Once you’re out there on social media, students usually will be able to find you. This question is one of personal choice, whether you feel comfortable with students following you especially since you cannot control that with a public account. This would be a great time to have a conversation with the students you work with to create boundaries. However, many pros make a Twitter account so they CAN interact with students so keep that in mind as well as you develop your Twitter game plan.

The word #hashtag in blue cursive

Interacting with Others 

When engaging with the community, it’s wise to use specific hashtags to reach the audience that you’re interested in. Here is a super non-exhaustive list of hashtags!

  • #reslife – a space for Residence Life pros and aspiring pros to discuss this functional area
  • #SAfit – a hashtag for connecting with #SApros looking to get fit and promote all kinds of wellness
  • #SAlatinx – a hashtag for Latin@/x grads and professionals
  • #BlkSAP – a hashtag for connecting with Black grads and professionals
  • #NASPA17 & #ACPA17 – most associations have a specific hashtag for their annual and regional conferences. Find these out to get in the conversation even if you’re not on-site!
  • #SAsearch – a space for those on the job search to gain tips, ask questions, and celebrate successes!
  • #SAassess – a space for assessment pros to talk about their role and promote this essential need in our field
  • and so many more! (http://www.higheredcareercoach.com/twitter-chats/)

Student Affairs Chats

Three steps for engaging in a Twitter chatEngaging in weekly or monthly chats is a great way to connect with the general #SAPro community and interest areas such as professional level and functional area. To the right are instructions on how to engage with #SAChat but these can be generalized to almost all chats!

  • #SAChat – generalist Student Affairs chat hosted on Thursdays at 1PM and 7PM EST
  • #SAgrad – a space for Student Affairs grads to discuss their perspectives, Sundays at 8PM EST
  • #SJEchat – Social Justice Education & conversations that matter, weekly social justice chats
  • #MSIchat – Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions, connecting and empowering MSIs
  • #ASCAchat – the Association for Student Conduct Administration chats, to share #stuconduct knowledge one tweet at a time
  • #FAchat – Financial Aid chats, second Tuesday of every month at 12 PM CST
  • #AcAdv – Academic Advising chats, every other Tuesday at 12 PM CST
  • There are many more representing almost all functional areas and interests! (Many of the more recent chats can be found here: https://www.insidehighered.com/twitter_directory)

Conclusion

Twitter is a huge asset for engaging with others and promoting one’s brand, especially within Student Affairs. As a field that loves to build community within residence halls, orientation programming, student activities, and within whole institutions, I’m not surprised that the field has worked to create online spaces for professionals and graduate students to find similar communities. I hope that these tips have been helpful and I hope to see you tweeting soon!

Do you have other tips for Twitter beginners? Have more recommendations on chats, hashtags, or tips for a Student Affairs Twitter? Feel free to share in a comment!

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